Sunday, 26 January 2020

Omnibot’s Robot Root-Out: Big D ‘Babe Boards’

“...Deep under Arfon’s studio lies an extensive collection of random artefacts thirty years in the making. His robotic assistant Omnibot has been assigned the mammoth task of excavating the collection. What will Omnibot uncover today...!”

A New Year and Omnibot’s found a new haul! We thought the first Robot Root Out of 2020 was to be about Snoots, a series of 80 cards produced by Continental Candy in 1989-I loved these! Each Snoot card featured a different character design and was divided into three categories Snoots Nose Kids, Snoots Nosimals and Snoots Nosy Bodies. A short bio of each character depicted was written on the back of the card but the main ‘feature’ of these things is that each one has a small nose shaped hole in the middle of the card for children to push their own noses through and complete the image! Great fun! However I have been unable to find locate further information about them, who devised them? The artist responsible for the designs and so on SO we have decided to shelve them until such details become available (if you can help shed some further light on them e-mail me at arfon@arfon.net) so instead we are devoted this post to another card related collection that I have.
But first (as is often the case with these things) a back story... Growing up, I was part of what could be considered a large family, with numerous grandparents, aunts and uncles spread all over the county and so weddings, wedding anniversaries, christenings and birthday seemed a fairly regular outing  and these would (more often)  take place at various strategically placed /convenient hotels,  restaurants  and family friendly pubs. These family occasions could be tedious if there wasn’t a play area (back in those days a swing or climbing frame) our parents would give us what change they had to either go play an arcade machine or buy a Coke or packet of crisps, whatever it took to keep us quiet. The later, seemed the most regular however and the late adolescent me had a particular penchant for Smiths Bacon Flavored Fries (still do) as it seemed I could only get them at these establishments I would always scan the wall behind the barkeep to see if they stocked them (still do) but this particular occasion they only sold nuts... and that was when pre-teen Arfon discovered Big D peanuts, or more specifically the way Big D peanuts promoted their products. The Big D peanut girl!

Having first been introduced to the UK in 1967, Big D (Dallas) would have been just another peanut company supplying their products to the pubs of Great Britain had it not been for the ingenious idea of introducing the ‘babe board’ in 1975 a cardboard display that contained 24 packets of 50g packs of nuts which could be hung on the wall behind the bar, but (and this is the clever bit) each time a pack would be bought more of the Big D girl’s photo on the card itself would be revealed- a very clever idea!  Never depicting actual nudity, former computer operator, South End girl turned model Beverley Pilkington was the first Big D girl having previously appeared on Page 3 and numerous Top of the Pops album covers (more on them some day) “Big D Bev" was the.... face of the brand also featured on the company’s promotional items including playing cards and calendars such as the 1979 one ‘Sporting Nuts’ which had her posing with various sports stars of the time. But it was the ‘Beverly Cards’ themselves that proved to be the real hit with the public, making a star out of Beverly and assuring great success for the company until the campaign was eventually dropped during the seemingly more politically aware times of the late 80’s.  
 The company claimed in 2003 that they had been losing £500,000 a year since the campaign had been dropped and when they reintroduced it with Page 3/ ‘lads mag’ model Ruth Higham in 2003 they saw sales rise by 35% securing the future of the company, which employed “about 140 workers” as you can imagine the re introduction of the Babe Board was met with criticism in which Rob Wooley, of Trigon Foods defended, claiming it was not offensive, declaring "There's a bit of cleavage but no nudity - it's just a bit of cheeky fun." It seemed that many a model aspired for the title of Big D peanut girl as reported in a Wigan Today in an article published in 2010 reporting on one such hopeful, Louise Royal, one of the five finalists whom had beaten “hundreds of wannabes across the country” in a contest in 'lads mag' Zoo hoping to replace the then board babe and Daily Star Sunday babe Malene Espensen and secure a four year contract with Big D.   “Middlesex marvelPage 3 Rosie Jones was crowned Big D Babe having  successfully completed a series of ‘Babe Hunt’ challenges including “proving she could pour the perfect pint” now the face of the brand also posing for Big D’s calendars with her third “and steamiest! “ calendar released in 2013 donating 10% of profits from all sales to Balls to Cancer – a male cancer awareness and research charity.
Now fully embraced by 'lad culture' and following on from their 2012 ‘finger footie’ campaign the babe board campaign was given a 21st century spin in 2013 allowing pub goers (via a “branded beer map”) the chance to play interactive pub games online and upload a photo of themselves with Rosie (whom had been voted fourth in FHM’s twenty sexiest women that year) to their social media pages. But like all good things, this was short lived, as the D peanut girl went the same way of the Page 3 and Lads Mags becoming extinct in 2016 with the company distancing itself from the 'girly' image and using simple colored backing cards indicating the flavor of the nuts be it Salted, Dry Roasted, Crunchy BBQ , Crunchy Chili, Honey Roast, Birds Eye Chili, Mixed Nuts & Raisins or Natural nut products and mixes... Was it inevitable? I guess it was. Is it shame?  I think so, as I regard it to be a very clever sales gimmick. But whatever your thoughts you will find these original cards in our eBay shop - money raised from our eBay auctions help fund all my creative endeavors and the YouTube channel.  Any questions you might have get in touch, Omnibot is only too happy to oblige!


I will add Big D haven’t purged their Facebook page as they have with their official website, so if you dig deep enough you will find an unlimited source of images devoted to their campaigns since its reintroduction and a occasional fond look back over the Big D Bev days.

© Arfon Jones 2020. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

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